This article is written by Pari Khurana from Ansal University, Gurgaon. This is an exhaustive article which merely deals with the modes of disqualification as to the succession under Hindu law.
Laws are always neutral for everyone. These are embedded in society for the welfare of the people. They have a strong outlook especially in credentials towards family law. Family law is a law dealing with issues related to family matters. The compass of family law is totally subjective in nature. One of the most paramount parts under the family law is the Hindu Succession Act 1956. This Act basically came with the intent of providing an all-inclusive and uniform scheme of undevised succession for Hindus. As under the Hindu Succession Act 1956, there are laws related to disqualification which states that what an old Hindu law and a modern Hindu law briefly asseverate about it. There are numerous laws related to disqualification. According to Hindu law, the natural endowment rights of a person were not absolute. In spite of the nearness of the interconnection, a person could still be disqualified from inheriting the property, on the delineation of his certain physical or mental frailty, or specific comportment, this barring from inheritance was not on the basis of a religious ground, but rather depends on moral grounds.
One of the most remarkable ideas behind the evolution of family law was mainly to provide clear sound security to the members. The joint and undivided Hindu family is the basic condition for the Hindu society. Normally here the senior-most male is seen as a guardian member of the family who overlooks the matters related to any issue. However, under the traditional Hindu law women are empowered with fewer rights, and were considered to be acquiescent to the male member of the family.
Some of the Acts have been passed by the legislation such as –
Old Hindu Law
Under the old Hindu law, the endowment rights of a person are not unmodified and there were certain disqualifications based on intellectual delicacy and physical defects. In spite of the nearness of the relationship, a person could still be disqualified from inheriting the property. This ostracism from the inheritance of the property does not solely on religious grounds, as in an incapability to perform certain religious rites, but rather be determined by the social grounds.
Modern Hindu Law
The law relating to any concession for Hindu is overseen by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Under this act Section 24 to 28 deals with disqualification with the heir. Section 28 states that no person shall be disqualified from acquiring any property on the basis of any perspective except those mentioned Act.
- In the case of remarriage by certain widows mentioned under Section 24.
- In the case of murder mentioned under Section 25.
Inheritance under traditional Hindu law
Dharma Shastra manifests a very expedient approach and concedes that eventually and for a numerous basis. Dharma Shastra endeavours to safeguard the interest of different sections of society. Since Hindu society has always been a patriarchal society, the property rights of a male member of the family have always considered being more important than the female member. Moreover, the restrictions being imposed on the women which were considered to be necessary by our traditional patriarchal setups. This was firmly believed by the members of the family that if the women were given equal rights, they would mistreat their marital obligations and household works.
Before the codification of Hindu law, there were different issues and commentaries that arose the inheritance issues among the Hindus, and with the spare of the time, these commentaries gradually gave them individual characteristics. As far as the rights of the sonless widow to inherit the property are considered, Mitakshara has simply laid down the principle that the sonless women can easily inherit the estate of his husband, which means that the properties will be acquired by her individually if she has been separated from the family.
Rule of succession in males
Section 8 of The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 deals with the general rule of succession in the case of males. Any property of Hindu male dying intestate shall delegate according to certain provisions mentioned below –
- Firstly, upon the heirs being the relative mentioned under Schedule of class 1.
- Secondly, If there is no heir of any of the class, then upon the agnate of the deceased.
Valid grounds for disqualification
Section 24 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 states that “certain widows remarrying may not inherit as a widow. The person who is in a relationship with an intestate, as the widow of a predeceased son or widow of a brother may not be entitled to inherit the property of the estate as a widow if on the date of succession she has remarried. On such a basis, it was disposed of the inheritance already which was vested on the widows on their remarriage. As in law, remarriage incapacitates a widow of a gotraja sapinda from succeeding to the property of a male Hindu on the date the succession arrives Under the law, some of the families state that if they had married before the succession had disqualified them from inheriting the property of the deceased instate. Under the Widow Remarriage Act, 1856 only three kinds of women are disqualified from inheriting the property if they remarried before death.
- Son’s widow
- Son’s Son’s widow
- Brother’s widow
In spite of all reasons, women can not be disqualified from inheriting the property. However, intestate women could also be disqualified as in intestate widow women remarriage could not also be disqualified before succession open arises, as if she married a person for the second time, her marriage would be stated as void and in a law void marriage is no marriage. In these sections, she still remains to be a member of the intestate family even if she had married before the intestate death.
Section 25 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 falls under this criteria. This Section states that any person who commits the murder or assists the murder shall be disqualified from inheriting the property of the person, or any property in the promotion to succession to which he or she committed the murder. So as, If any person found guilty for the murder of the deceased intestate must forfeit his or her rights to come up with the property of the deceased.
The provision of the statue of distribution is paramount and are forbidden any disqualification not containing any statue, was discombobulated by the Judicial Committee of Privy.
As the Section definitely applies to an area where there is the inheritance of a property but this Act also applies to an area where the testator has left behind the will. A murderer who is guilty of murdering the testator cannot take any benefit under the will. The Section applies to succession under the Act. It does not apply to any other enactment under any other statue.
In the case of Smt. Kasturi Devi v. D.D.C AIR 1976 SC 2105, it was held by the Privy Council that on the principle of equity and justice the murderer should be disqualified from succeeding to the person whom he had murdered and would not be regarded as the fresh descent as he can be stated as the non-existent. Murder means to kill or assassinate someone which is broadly understood in a popular sense and not just to a technical resolute. This goes beyond the reasonable doubt proof sense of the Indian Penal Code. In State v. Chetan Chauhan, the wife was accused of murdering her husband abetment to commit murder along with three other people and was clearly denied with the succession certificate as in the view of Section 25 of The Hindu Succession Act,1956. In the view of the exoneration by the Criminal Court, the Bombay High Court stated that there is nothing that she could be involved in murdering her husband, she could be entitled to succeed to her property.
A murder attempted during the profounding effects and sudden provocation, or to safe one’s own life or somebody else life is considered as more commiserating under the Criminal Law, Moreover, the Civil Court is not bounded by the decision or verdict of the Criminal Court, they can have their own independent decision. In Janak Rani Chadha v. the State (NCT of Delhi), the husband was held guilty for committing the murder of his wife after a few years of his marriage. As she has leftover her property that she has purchased before her marriage. So, therefore according to the Hindu Provision Act, the property constituted her general property and as she died issueless, her husband would have normally succeeded to the property, but in accordance to the provision of Section 25, he was the one who murdered her, so he would be disqualified from inheriting the property.
Abetment of a murder
The Commission of the murder of the intestate or the abetting of the commission of the murder has one or the same result.
- Taking as an example where the entire planning of murder is done by the person A, B, C who are in direct or indirectly in relation with A and helps A in attempting the murder by bringing the intestate by a false pretext where A kills and B, C might not have murdered the intestate, they will be disqualified from succession to the property.
Disqualification of the converted descendants
Section 26 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 states about the Converted descendant’s disqualification. Before the initiation of this Act, Hindus ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to any other religion, after the conversion of the religion the descendants. Therefore, they will be disqualified from inheriting the property of any of their Hindu relatives in spite of any of those children being Hindu at the time of succession opens. Under the old Hindu law, conversion by a Hindu into some other religion was considered as disqualification which was further removed by the Caste Disability Removal Act,1850. Under this Act as well when a Hindu converted his religion he still might have a right to all the property of his or her relatives but descendants of a covert are disqualified from inheriting the property.
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 clearly states that a Hindu ceased to be Hindu by converting to any religion whether before or after the implementation of this Act. If the child was born to them before or after the conversion of the religion, the descendants will be disqualified from inheriting the property unless those descendants are Hindu when the succession opens.
Applicability of Section 26
This Section does not apply to testamentary succession where the succession is governed by the testament as it is only applicable to intestate succession so far. This section is prospective in nature as the disqualification only arises when the commencement of the succession opens. It is also retrospective in nature as the Act also applies to a case where the conversion had taken place prior to the commencement of the Act.
Succession when heir disqualified
Section 27 of The Hindu Succession Act 1956 states about the succession when the heir is disqualified. Under this Act, If any person got disqualified from inheriting any of the property, it must be devolved as if such a person died before the intestate.
It relates down to the general relating to the effects of the disability of the disqualification resulting to any of the causes under the Section of 24 to 28 and is according to the Hindu Law that where the heir is disqualified. However, a disqualified person shows no interest in his or her own heir. The Section, therefore, provides the consequences of disqualification incurred by an heir from inheriting under any provision of the Act. Under the statement, if the disqualified heir is still alive then he will be deemed to be not in existence.
Under this Section, a disqualified heir is considered to be dead before the intestate, which states that no person can claim the right to inherit the property of the intestate through him or her.
No disqualification for disease and deformity
Section28 under The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 states that there would be no disqualification for any disease and deformity., which further explains that no person shall be disqualified from inheriting the property on the ground to any disease or defect or any ground respectively. However, certain defects and deformities see notes that exclude an heir from inheritance. As, this was substantially remedied by the Hindu Inheritance Act, 1928.
The Section is not retrospective. The section, therefore, applies to both testamentary and intestate succession. It comes into the operation when the succession opens after the commencement of the Act. If the succession opens before the commencement of the Act it states that Section not being retrospective.
In this case of “Anhia Mandalanin And Anr v. Bajnath Mandal And Anr, (6 November 1973)”, a stepmother of the deceased intestate female remarried prior to the commencement of the Act, though the intestate women died after the commencement of the Act, it was suggested that the mother was not entitled to inherit as she was disqualified.
As the principle of “equality” is equated with the sameness treatment as essential in an unequal society. Law of disqualification under The Hindu Succession Act,1956 is dealt by the Section24 to 28 and with due respect to these sections, a person can be disqualified only in the case of remarriage by few widows expressly as mentioned under the Section, when a person commits a murder for the furtherance of the property and when a person is descendant of the convert. Only in such cases, a person can be disqualified to inherit the property, rest all come under all Hindu Law which is abolished by now.
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